Tag Archives: arts

Review: BASELINE BLVD by Emi Gennis

Emi-Gennis-Baseline-Blvd-2015

Emis Gennis is a cartoonist who I see as someone who likes to get down to business and create good comics. I admire that. Her work is clean and professional while also maintaining an organic energy to it. For her latest work, “Baseline Blvd,” she employs a precise and bold use of pencil to take us on quite a journey.

Gennis has a keen interest in sordid tales, as I’ve seen from her past work. For this one, we follow the emotional turmoil from an abusive relationship and the end results. We view this from various vantage points, often very quiet and nondescript.

A woman carries flowers in her car on a trip to find some resolution. We don’t know very much about her or any other details than are necessary. It’s as if the flotsam and jetsam of the urban sprawl the young woman sees on her way to her destination tries to compete for our attention. Faceless everyday detritus. A crow devouring roadside carrion.

Gennis is a born storyteller. “Baseline Blvd” shows us a cartoonist well on her way. This new comic just debuted at the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival. For more details on work in general, visit Emi Gennis right here.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Carrion Press, Comics, Emi Gennis, Independent Comics, Indie, mini-comics, Minicomics, Self-Published, Vancouver Comic Arts Festival

Review: THIS IS CEZANNE, published by Laurence King Publishing

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Like Van Gogh, Cezanne (1839–1906) stood out from his contemporaries. He was the original bad boy, or “enfant terrible.” He was brash, experimental, and ahead of his time. Unlike Van Gogh, his life and work is not nearly as familiar to the general public. “This is Cezanne,” part of the This is Art series from Laurence King Publishing, provides an inviting and illuminating look at a most intriguing and influential artist. You will delight in this work, monograph by Jorella Andrews and illustrations by Patrick Vale.

Cezanne

Cezanne first gained notoriety, or infamy, from his paintings that parodied some of the leading figures from the older generation of artists. It shocked. It offended. It was a sensation. And that common thread of sensation ran through his later work concerned with the tactile and immersive. A rebel to the end, Cezanne did enjoy working with conventional compositions (still life, plein air, domestic scene), often with a sardonic twist and, just as often, with a gentle quality.

Patrick-Vale-Cezanne-2015

Bad boy antics aside, Cezanne was deeply interested in art tradition at its roots, going back to basics of line and color. This was also of great interest to a fellow artist provocateur, Edouard Manet. The two of them lampooned mindless art traditionalists. However, they could both be found in the Louvre studying the masters…on their own terms, gleaning what they needed.

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“This is Cezanne” is available now. Visit our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here. You can also find this book at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Art History, Cezanne, Laurence King Publishing, Modern Art

Review: THIS IS VAN GOGH, published by Laurence King Publishing

This-is-Van-Gogh-Laurence-King

Vincent van Gogh, the quintessential symbol of the artist. But, just like any public figure, the reality of the person is far more complicated. Unlike popular belief, Van Gogh was no caricature of a madman with a paintbrush. You could say there were two Van Goghs: the tortured soul; and the sophisticated artist attuned to trends in contemporary art. Make no mistake, Van Gogh knew his art and directly from some his most celebrated contemporaries. In “This is Van Gogh,” one of the latest in the “This is Art” series, published by Laurence King Publishing, George Roddam provides a concise and substantial monograph accompanied by moving illustrations by Sława Harasymowicz. This graphic novel format proves to be a most compelling look at the artist suitable for any age.

Van Gogh

As much as loneliness and rejection weighed upon Van Gogh, it’s essential to know that he was just as absorbed with art matters: content, composition, and, most importantly, color theory. Red. Green. Opposing colors on the color wheel. Brought together. They evoke tension. They evoke emotional turmoil. A band of colors, just like the ones used by the local weavers. Behold, their close unison creates a vibrant gray throughout. Black. A more complex and dazzling black is made up by blending multiple colors. Color theory. The impressionists, ah, some became mired in it. Color theory. The Post-Impressionsits, ah, some became too technical about it. Color! Use it. Revel in it. The tension between green and red!

Illustration in "This is Van Gogh" by Sława Harasymowicz

Illustration in “This is Van Gogh” by Sława Harasymowicz

The “This is Art” series is, I cannot stress enough, a wonderful treat and useful art tool. Each monograph is expertly written and the illustrations are from some of the best artists around the world. “This is Van Gogh” is available now. Visit our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here. You can also find this book at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Art History, Laurence King Publishing, Van Gogh

Review: FERTILITY, published by Centrala

FERTILITY by Gosia Herba and Mikołaj Pasiński

FERTILITY by Gosia Herba and Mikołaj Pasiński

“Fertility” is a beautiful and strange graphic novel by Gosia Herba and Mikołaj Pasiński. The artwork is by Herba and, together, Herba and Pasiński create various work. This book is brought to you by Centrala, publishers of marvelous works from Central Europe.

Fertility-Gosia-Herba-Centrala

Think of one of the darkest tales of folklore you’ve read and then read this. “Fertility” works on a highly uninhibited level. It’s brought to life by Herba’s bold drawing style and held together by a relentless pace. The subdued blue hues running throughout kiss the work with dark grace. Rabbits are being tortured as they fall into endless traps set by the young village women. But the women don’t notice this. They are too caught up in their fertility rites. They know rabbits are synonymous with fertility. And, they believe, that eating their entrails with lead to them birthing baby boys.

Once we’ve witnessed the rabbits’ terror, it’s time to reverse the roles. If the women were callous, the rabbits are beyond heartless. It’s pretty rough stuff but it’s all rendered with poetic fervor. Each panel ratchets up the tension. The rabbits, once in bug-eyed fear, are now the masters. The young women desired fertility, but the rabbits tear that dream to shreds and then some. Herba is completely in touch with sexuality, the macabre, and very dark humor. This content is for mature readers, 18 and up. It’s a powerful work and one you won’t forget.

“Fertility” is a 36-page hardcover published by Centrala. For some of the most unique works in comics, visit our friends at Centrala right here.

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Filed under Centrala, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Horror

Review: TUFF LADIES, published by Centrala

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Tuff Ladies by Till Lukat

What does Belle Starr, Rosa Parks, and Ma Barker have in common? In “Tuff Ladies,” a new work in comics by Till Lukat, they are part of his kaleidoscopic tour of women in history. This is a most unusual book and quite a page-turner. Lukat has assembled 24 portraits of significant women. He calls his choices “remarkable” but, perhaps “colorful” is a better catch-all word. Or maybe “provocative.” It’s a fascinating collection.

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Profile on Ann Boney, Pirate Queen

There is certainly a subversive sensibility at play here. It’s not so much that Lukat is glorifying each and every woman he’s profiled. It’s more like he’s presenting each figure as a compelling character from fiction. Each woman here is depicted in Lukat’s energetic woodcut-like style. Each profile has its own crazy urgency: a bold portrait followed by a brief comic strip and topped off with some brief text.

The most controversial inclusion is Ulrike Meinhof of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, a left-wing terrorist group that committed several murders, kidnappings, bank robberies, and bomb attacks. The overall theme is that all these women made a huge impact. Not all of them are well-known. In fact, Lukat pretty much avoids obvious choices. One of the more poignant ones is for Miep Gies. Thanks to her, the Diary of Anne Frank was kept safe from the Nazis to go on to be known throughout the world.

This book is a treat. It’s a perfect gateway for further exploration. It’s odd, artful, and most refreshing.

“Tuff Ladies” is a 64-page hardcover published by Centrala. For some of the most unique works in comics, visit our friends at Centrala right here.

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Filed under Centrala, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels

Review DC COMICS – THE NEW 52: THE POSTER COLLECTION from Insight Editions

DC Comics - The New 52: The Poster Collection

DC Comics – The New 52: The Poster Collection

This is one colossal book. It’s 40 posters featuring art from the biggest names in the DC Universe. This is “DC Comics – The New 52: The Poster Collection,” published by Insight Editions. All in one place, you get an eye full of iconic cover art from the most popular DC Comics titles since the launch of the New 52 in 2011. The book of posters is 12″ x 16″, priced at $24.99, and proves an excellent collection of contemporary DC Comics artwork.

Wonder Woman Poster with issue from comic book for comparison.

Wonder Woman Poster with issue from comic book for comparison.

If you love The New 52 comics, then this is a perfect companion piece. Here are some samples with the comic book alongside for comparison.

Action Comics Poster with issue from comic book for comparison.

Action Comics Poster with issue from comic book for comparison.

And, if you are somehow new to The New 52, this unique book will make an excellent introduction.

New 52 Batgirl Posters

New 52 Batgirl Posters

“DC Comics – The New 52: The Poster Collection” is available as of May 12, 2015. For more details, visit our friends at Insight Editions right here. You can also go here, here, and here.

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Filed under Comics, DC Comics, Insight Editions, The New 52

Review: Pablo: Art Masters Series

Pablo-Self-Made-Hero-Birmant

To explore the life of Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) is to explore the life of a man who left a huge mark on art, so huge a mark that to take him out of the picture would be, well, unthinkable. To better understand the man, we have this new graphic novel, published by SelfMadeHero, simply entitled, “Pablo.”

How better to get a grip on the man behind the legend than to explore his early years. And who better to guide us than the woman in his young life, Fernande Olivier. This is no simple story of love, or friendship, or an artist’s development. This is the great Picasso, after all. However, with Fernande’s help, we get a down to earth look at him. The creators of this graphic novel have placed Fernande in the role she had always aspired to, that of storyteller. Through the script by Julie Birmant and the artwork by Clément Oubrerie, we get one of the most lucid depictions of the life of Picasso, one of the most celebrated and enigmatic of public figures.

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Fernande. Who was this person? Fernande Olivier (born Amélie Lang; 1881–1966) would become a well-known artist’s model and, ultimately, a writer. She was involved with Picasso from 1904 to 1911. She was one of the models for Picasso’s landmark work, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.” Picasso would paint her over one hundred times. Fernande’s memoir entitled, “Picasso and his Friends,” was published in 1930. It outraged Picasso and led to her agreeing not to publish any more details about their time together until after their deaths. Without a doubt, Picasso would not be pleased with this new graphic novel. Fernande is not a woman easily impressed with Picasso’s antics. As we see here, she is a veteran of Parisian art circles. And she proves quite a match for him.

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Picasso. The world would know his name. But, as for Fernande, there came a point when she no longer had a place in his life. As his star ascended, she only reminded him of the hard times. Julie Birmant and Clément Oubrerie depict a career that began in poverty and reached its climax with the advent of cubism and modern art. We see Picasso’s art develop through friendships with poets Max Jacob and Guillaume Apollinaire, the painter Georges Braque, and his great rival Henri Matisse. And all through, arguably, the most fruitful and significant time in his career, there was Fernande.

This is a book that provides a fresh new look at Paris, the capital of the art world at the turn of the 20th century. Julie Birmant gives a nod to younger readers by including such terms and phrases as “awesome” and “kill me now” in the dialogue. It’s not overdone and adds a contemporary feel to the action. For the most part, the narrative is straightforward and peppered with intriguing bits of insight. Here, for instance, is a description of the first time that Fernande saw Picasso’s studio: “I still remember the smell: a mixture of wet dog, oil, dust and tobacco…the smell of work.”

This is a very honest and beautiful work. It will appeal to all ages from teen on up. It’s a frank look at the artist’s life and just goes to show that even the great Picasso had to start somewhere and he did not do it alone. In many ways, it’s the very same path that any young artist takes today, including the revelations from reading Rimbaud. Picasso lived that life long before Millennials and this book does a wonderful job of bridging that gap. The young Picasso is made quite relatable and would fit right in any coffee shop today.

“Pablo” is a 344-page trade paperback, published by SelfMadeHero. It is available as of May 5, 2015. For more details, visit our friends at SelfMadeHero right here. You can also find it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Comics, France, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Modern Art, Pablo Picasso, Paris, SelfMadeHero

Review: BLACK RIVER

Fantagraphics-Josh-Simmons

There is no Black River to be found in Josh Simmons’s graphic novel, “Black River,” but that’s besides the point. The characters are all post-apocalypse survivors with nary a need to know one river from another. Nihilism prevails. For such a bare bones story, there are plenty of compelling moments, both grim and poetic.

People can be pretty hostile and dangerous even in the best of times, so it is quite something to have a group of youth running wild into the wasteland. No zombies to contend with, if that’s any consolation. It’s more the drip, drip, drip, of too many lost and rough souls wandering. All this Simmons depicts well. It’s something any hip cartoonist can revel in, if he or she chooses, and he does a good job of it.

With all the jailhouse craziness that ensues, Simmons is a careful artist. He has a deft way of creating just the right amount of detail to evoke a landscape or a town that has been left in ruins. And I really enjoy his rendering of the Aurora Borealis. It comes up a number of times in panels, enough to add to the spacey energy that charges this work.

Much like a good old-fashioned horror movie, a comic such as this, to be any good, relies upon setting up an interesting mood and environment. Without a doubt, Simmons succeeds in this. He gives us some compelling characters among his ragtag group of hardened misfits. And we’re left wanting to turn the page as a morbid sense of curiosity sets in. Of course, things will get darker, as well as more disgusting. This is raw stuff, kids. Mature content. Those familiar with it, will not be disappointed.

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And if you’re in Seattle, be sure to visit the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery this Saturday, April 25, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm for a reception for the publication of Josh Simmons’s new graphic novel, Black River, and the release of the latest issue of Intruder, #15. Simmons will be joined by his colleagues from the Intruder comix collective. Simmons contributes a story in the latest issue illustrated by Joe Garber. Festivities include a display of Simmons’s original drawings, a black light room, short film screening, a book signing, and complimentary refreshments.

Black River is a 112-page trade paperback, priced at $18.99. For more details, visit our friends at Fantagraphics Books right here.

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Filed under Comics, Fantagraphics, Fantagraphics Books, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Horror, Josh Simmons

Review: Insight Legends series and Marvel Comics

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO THOR and THE WORLD ACCORDING TO IRON MAN.

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO THOR and THE WORLD ACCORDING TO IRON MAN.

Who is it that loves superhero comics the most? Kids! Yes, superhero comics are for kids. There are plenty of stories geared toward older readers but, at the heart of the matter, if you stray so far from your younger readers, you have really lost something vital. Well, the focus shifted many years ago to mature and dark content to say the least. While an all-ages sphere of influence would prove quite interesting, we’ve moved past that model. Whatever the content, ultimately it depends on the creative team as to merit of each project. That said, kids must get their due. In that regard, Insight Editions has come up with a series with young readers in mind.

Tony Stark takes it easy.

Tony Stark takes it easy.

I can well imagine books like these being warmly received, taken at face value, by younger readers. Sounds idealistic? No, it’s just the power of childhood. Each one of these books is part of the Insight Legends series from Insight Editions. The series kicks off with a focus on characters from the Marvel Comics universe.

Thor postage stamp stickers.

Thor postage stamp stickers.

Each book comes packed with extras like posters, stickers, and “top secret” documents. Pages are full of intriguing facts, maps, and family trees, providing a veritable guidebook on a particular character. That’s the theme: a focus on one character and that character’s view of the world. Included in the series are Iron Man, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Captain America, and Thor. Each book is around 64 pages with about 10 inserts, varies with each book.

For more details, visit our friends at Insight Editions. You can find THE WORLD ACCORDING TO IRON MAN right here. You can find THE WORLD ACCORDING TO THOR right here.

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Filed under Avengers, Comics, Insight Editions, Marvel Comics, Superheroes

Review: MIGHTY STAR AND THE CASTLE OF THE CANCATERVATER

Mighty-Star-Koyama-Press

Alex Degen is working in a place that many cartoonists want to be working in. It’s a place of wonder and experimentation. He’s definitely someone I’d love to sit down and have a long talk with over tea, beer, whatever. What he does in this collection of comics hits close to home since it’s the sort of comics I like to create. I feel that I know a goodly amount about this as I’ve studied numerous similar work over the years and I know several cartoonists in a similar boat. That said, this is a pretty specific way of working.

Some label this type of cartooning as “dream logic” or “psychedelic.” What they mean is that the work evokes an anything-goes quality or follows a stream-of-consciousness narrative. This is seemingly loose work. But that doesn’t mean it’s a free pass to get sloppy. Instead, you want to be pretty clean and precise with your presentation in order to go to some weird places and have it read properly. All this Degen does quite well.

This book collects six parts of previous webcomics which add up to one wild journey. Each part ends with a “to be continued” and it provides an essential pause. I say this because that may help break things down a bit for you, if you’re totally new. What you’ll initially find is a world where it seems as if anything is liable to explode or melt or some such surreal craziness. Let’s get one thing straight, the definition of “cancatervater.” It means, “to heap into a pile.” Does that help? Well, does it? Okay, think of this Cancatervater as a most sinister force plotting to take over the world. Now, add Mighty Star, our superhero, to the mix.

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What happens is, well, a little of everything. It’s science fiction, fantasy, manga, and bit of a bodice ripper. Twice, we have two pretty young women suddenly bare breasted. One is Bijoux, a typical manga type in skin-tight clothes. The other is far less obvious, an aerialist, Zoe Trala. In both cases, it seems that a certain amount of tension, made up of pent-up hormones and angst, has reached a point of no return. The women’s clothes are not ripped off of them. They simply find themselves without tops. So, needless to say, this book has mature content, more for older teens and above. In the end, this book is more cerebral than titillating.

It’s after this second incident with Zoe Trala’s missing top that more nudity is included but it has purpose. It’s always of a rather understated nature, not offensive or particularly gratuitous. And it leads us to one of the most compelling scenes in the narrative. Mighty Star’s journey leads him to a forest. And hanging from the trees are numerous naked bodies of both men and women. They aren’t hung dead bodies. No, instead, they fall from the trees just like apples. In fact, they each have a big apple stem where each head should be. This is the most explicit symbol of the forbidden knowledge that Mighty Star has been confronting all along.

Alex-Degen-comics

All the characters here are elusive and enigmatic. Moreover, the superhero motif is not obviously vigorous but mysterious. In a setting for action there is farce and ambiguity. The style here is a somewhat rougher version of King City’s Brandon Graham. Offbeat. Off–kilter. Dialed back to just the right frequency. When you expect conflict, you may end up with a muffled sedate response. Sex. Violence. Superheroes. Leave it to a cartoonist like Alex Degen to balance all that with such a wry and ironic sensibility.

Yes, Alex, I’ll be waiting with tea, beer, or whatever. I’m sure we’d have one hell of a good talk.

MIGHTY STAR AND THE CASTLE OF THE CANCATERVATER is a 172-page, black & white, trade paperback, priced at $15.00, published by Koyama Press. For more details, visit our friends at Koyama Press right here.

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Filed under Alex Degen, Brandon Graham, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Koyama Press, Webcomics